Go-cart track gets zoning exception

The Warren County Zoning Hearing Board approved a special exemption for a go-cart track in Columbus Township on Wednesday.

Mark and Debbie Matthews of Columbus want to build the track at 1678 Schramling Road, a Corry address that is located in Warren County. The location is zoned Agriculture, Conservation and Recreation (ACR).

Mark Matthews described the proposed track saying, “It’s about kids; about 75 percent of the racers are children. The races would take place one day a week, on Saturday or Sunday and last about four or five hours.” He said the clay racetrack would be 150 yards off the road, 200 to 225 yards from an adjoining residence on one side, and 300 yards on the other side; although the actual property line was about 150 feet.

If approved, eventually the business would include a10-foot by 18-foot building for bathroom facilities and an 8-foot by 16-foot building for a press box.

Lee Curtis, chairman of the zoning board, told Matthews, “There are certain criteria you have to meet” for an outdoor commercial recreation designation.

Michelle Alaskey, board solicitor, listed requirements for buffer zones including ground maintenance, tree and fence minimum sizes of 6 feet, a code forbidding outdoor speaker systems and limiting noise from indoor speakers and a requirement for shielding all lighting from surrounding residences.

Additionally, parking lot requirements include a minimum of one parking spot measuring at least 9 feet by 18 feet for every two patrons based on maximum occupancy, no unrestricted access from the street and a need to address drainage.

When asked about noise from the go-carts, Matthews said, “… about the same as a chain saw, but they will be muffled.”

David Demby, who lives across the street from the property testified, “He (Matthews) said they won’t make any more noise than a chainsaw, but how many (go-carts) will be on the track? Twenty chainsaws?” He added, “We already have problems with snowmobiles, four-wheelers and dirt bikes on the roads, this will bring in even more.”

He said that the road was not meant for commercial use, and there are issues with dust and mud.

Curtis answered, “We don’t have control of the road, only what happens on the property.”

Demby went on to list a number of other issues, saying, “There are probably better places for a track than on good farm land… there is a wetland and a spring on the property… a natural gas transmission line crosses the land… a small septic system on the land has had problems since the day it was put in and is still not working properly.” He also said there would be a trespassing problem, parking issues and litter. He said he has lived out in the country since 1961 and enjoys the quiet.

Others testified to the road issue, and asked about the number of go-carts, concern for trespassing, oil and gas spills, noise and mess.

Jay Groves said he is very familiar with go-carts, and the noise issue is covered by a number of governing bodies for the industry. He said decibel levels are set, and the noise from 20 go-carts is not 20 times as much as one. He noted, “These cars have the same motors as your lawn mowers and make the same noise.” He also said the cars don’t leak oil and gas; they are proudly maintained by the owners.

Roman Bem said he attended a go-cart race two weeks ago at Stateline Speedway and was “totally impressed,” noting that the drivers were between 6 and 70 years old.

Mike Firestone added, “I live just up the road, and I see no problems.” He added that this is not like NASCAR or Stateline races.

William Bubash testified, “It gives kids a sense of accomplishment. Mark is structured and organized, and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.”

Debbie Matthews testified that the racing is good for kids and families, and when Curtis asked about how many racers would be on the track at one time, she said 2 people for the younger racers, 10 to 12 for older people.

Demby returned to testify that he believed Steve Brown was biased against him, that he wouldn’t even look at him during his testimony.

The board held an executive session to debate the testimony, then returned to the courtroom.

Curtis said, “First we need to determine if go-cart racing falls under the ACR.” A motion was passed 2-1 stipulating that a go-cart track fell within the restrictions of an ACR zone, with board members Dave Miller and Brown voting aye, and Curtis opposing.

A motion that the requirements for a special exemption had been met passed unanimously, with the stipulations that proper buffer zones be established, with preferably both a treeline, fencing or both; no outdoor speakers would be used; any state requirements, such as erosion control be met and all necessary permits be acquired.

Curtis adjourned the hearing after telling Denby that he has the right to appeal the decision within 30 days of the hearing.